The number of U.S. coronavirus cases topped 11 million on Sunday, one million more new cases than a week ago and the fastest increase since the start of the pandemic. The number of COVID-19 patients in US hospitals has also reached an all-time high.
“Of course it would be better if we could start working with them,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has gone through multiple presidential transitions during 36 years of government service. .
He compared the process to runners passing the baton in a relay race. “You don’t want to stop and then give it to someone,” he said. “You just basically want to keep going. ”
Trump’s refusal to accept that he lost the election means Biden’s team does not have a clear picture of the grassroots work in government for a mass vaccination campaign that will last most of the time. next year, said Biden’s chief of staff Ron Klain.
“We now have the option… of a vaccine starting maybe in December or January,” Klain said.
“There are people at HHS who are planning to implement this vaccine. Our experts need to speak to these people as soon as possible so that nothing falls into this change of power that we are going to have on January 20.
Most dangerous phase
Klain said consultations with drug makers, including Pfizer and others, will begin this week.
Pfizer’s announcement last week that preliminary data indicates its vaccine is 90% effective has lifted financial markets and gave people around the world hope for an end to the pandemic.
Biden’s outreach to vaccine makers comes as the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has perhaps entered its most dangerous phase. The United States is adding about a million new cases per week and deaths were on average 820 per day on Saturday, a 33% increase in just two weeks.
Klain said that in some ways the most critical issue was getting a detailed understanding of the distribution plans being finalized by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Pentagon.
“We need to talk to them as quickly as possible,” he said. “It’s great to have a vaccine, but vaccines don’t save lives: vaccinations save lives. And that means you have to put this vaccine in the arms of people across the country. It is a giant logistics project. ”
Fauci stressed that the arrival of vaccines wouldn’t be like flipping a switch to get back to normal life. The first doses will only be available to people in high-risk groups later this year and Fauci said Americans will need to maintain preventative measures such as wearing masks, physical distancing and frequent hand washing. until next year.
“Everyone is susceptible to what we call ‘COVID fatigue’,” Fauci said. “People are exhausted about it. But we have to hang on a little longer… We have to hang on together.
Other vaccine makers are in the final stages of testing their formulations as well, and Fauci said he expects these vaccines to be very effective as well.
High priority groups
The US government has launched a program called Operation Warp Speed, backed by the White House, to rapidly manufacture and distribute tens of millions of doses of vaccine. The vaccines will be free for Americans, and the goal is to get most people immunized by around the same time next year. Many people will need two doses.
Initial access to the vaccine will be limited to high priority groups such as hospital and nursing home workers.
A senior Trump administration health official said 20 million doses could be available by the end of the month, and another 20 million by the end of the year.
The states of Michigan and Washington on Sunday imposed sweeping new restrictions on gatherings, including stopping indoor food service, to slow the spread of the virus.
“We are in a very dangerous time,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, member of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Unless action is taken now, “we’re going to see those numbers increase dramatically,” Osterholm warned. “Our future is in our hands.”